Let me tell you a little bit about Mr. A. When I visited him on Monday in west Allentown, the first thing I noticed was his yard. Every square inch was growing lettuce and other edibles. When I walked inside his modest home, vegetables of all kinds were growing all over the place. Mr. A is on a vegan diet. While I was at his home, a nice lady and her pretty young daughter dropped by with a few vegan meals. He promised to repay their kindness with plenty of veggies in a few weeks. I was thinking about cheeseburgers.
Mr. A speaks three different languages, is well-educated and was employed as a professional before his retirement. He began work as a newspaper delivery man so that he could control his high blood pressure. He had trouble staying on an exercise program, but the delivery job did the trick. In a month, his blood pressure was perfect.
Mugging on Bennett's Porch
On October 27th, at 4:30 AM, Mr. A had just picked up his newspapers and was starting his route. His very first home is the Historic Benner Home owned by congressional candidate Sam Bennett. As Mr. A ascended the steps, he was grabbed from behind and thrown onto the steps like a rag doll. A Hispanic-looking man, between 25 and 35, simply said "Money! I need money." He tussled with this fellow, who was wearing a long jacket between beige and orange in color along with some sort of black cloth on his head. During the encounter, Mr. A noticed that Sam Bennett had opened one of her windows and was watching the incident. By the time she came outside, the assailant was gone. He had taken about $20, a driver's license and a credit card.
Sam Bennett and Mr. A agreed about the description of his assailant. She commiserated with him, telling him she had been robbed herself. She promised to call police. Mr. A sat on her porch and waited thirty minutes. No police officer showed up, so he finished his route, went home and called police himself. He also called Bennett to ask why she never called the police, but all he got was her voice mail. Officer Heiserman came to Mr. A's home and took a statement (Complaint 07-90144). At this point, Mr. A learned that no one had called police before his own call.
Mr. A Disputes Sam Bennett's Stories
Sam Bennett actually has two explanations for this incident. At first, she was somewhat incredulous. "I broke up that mugging. What are you talking about? I've even called in stabbings. We are the first ones to call in disturbances. He [Mr. A] was getting mugged on my front steps, and I went outside in my pajamas and broke it up. I made sure he was OK. I told him to stop delivering the paper in the dark. He was traumatized. I stayed in communication with him throughout that whole thing. I was not the one who called the dispatcher. I get my paper later now. I told him not to deliver until it is lighter."
Later that day, she sent me an email to "add" to her original story, although it appears to be inconsistent with her original statement. "Living as we do next door to the Hotel Traylor, my husband and I over the years have found ourselves calling the police frequently about stabbings, gunshots, street fights and more. When I jumped out of bed and flung open the front door of our home early that morning, I incorrectly assumed it was yet another drunken interaction on our front steps. My response was to admonish the misbehavers and send them home. I did not know that our newspaper man had actually been mugged until the next day when he and I spoke on the phone. I’m glad I opened my door and hopefully prevented further harm from being committed in response to the noise I heard. But in hindsight I wish that I had known what was really happening, because in that event I would have called the police.”
I read each explanation to Mr. A. After hearing Version #1, Mr. A simply stated, "That is false." Once I read Version #2, Mr. A quietly responded, "This is a lie, too."
Morning Call Screws Up its Story, Too!
The day after the mugging, the Morning Call did run a story, asking anyone with information to call the police. But instead of reporting that Mr. A was robbed at the Historic Benner Home, the paper erroneously listed Mr. A's own address. After many calls, the paper finally ran a brief correction to indicate that the robbery had actually occurred at 25 South 15th Street. That was November 10.
Allentown Police Conduct Shoddy Investigation
In addition to losing $20, Mr. A also lost a credit card. Right after calling police, Mr. A also called his credit card company. He was told the card had already been used three times at two different locations - the Sunoco at 12th & Hamilton and the 7-11 at 7th & Linden. Mr. A visited both stores to see if there were any surveillance photos. Sunoco had surveillance videos, but refused to show them to Mr. A, claiming they could only show them to police.
But thank heaven for 7-11. The manager took pity on Mr. A, and gave him a computer copy of a photo of Mr. A's assailant, taken as A's credit card was used to purchase cartons of cigarettes. You can see a grainy copy of that photo at the top of this blog.
Mr. A immediately called police, but they told him they "didn't have time to look." They refused to go to either store. He was told he would have to wait for a detective.
A neighbor, who works for the Lehigh County District Attorney, told him her office has detectives, and two of them soon visited Mr. A. Although they lack jurisdiction to investigate, they at least made sure that an Allentown detective, Thomas Anderson, was assigned to the case.
Unfortunately, Detective Anderson has had no time to investigate this matter, either. "I told him those videos don't last forever, but Anderson claimed he doesn't have time." When Mr. A showed Detective Anderson the picture he obtained on his own, the investigator snapped, "You're not supposed to have that." Anderson did eventually send a written request for the videos. But it was too late. The videos are gone.
In the meantime, Mr. A actually saw his assailant in the Hotel Traylor lobby. He called for Detective Anderson, who was unavailable. He spoke to Anderson's boss, who told him they were "too busy" to do anything.
Mr. A finally called Congressman Charlie Dent. He tells me Dent called some Allentown official in his presence and in no uncertain terms told him to do his job.
Not long after that, Detective Anderson did stop by Mr. A's home with a picture. Mr. A was at the hospital undergoing tests. His high blood pressure has returned. "The magic is gone." Mr. A has since visited the police department repeatedly to try and see Anderson, but he's always too busy, working a different shift, in the middle of an interview, etc.
Mr. A believes Allentown police are making the city "a paradise for the criminals." Given what he's gone through, I can understand his reluctance to give his name or precise address. It's more likely he will be visited by his assailant than a cop.
Morning Call Has No Regard For Robbed Carrier
The Morning Call demonstrated its disdain for Mr. A from the onset. It failed to publish the address where the robbery occurred, instead listing the home address of its own carrier. I asked him how the paper reacted. "Nobody approached me to ask if I was OK. I doubt the higher ups know anything. Those in Circulation just don't care."
Mr. A also tells me the newspaper at one time paid all carriers equally and distributed papers through its trucks. Now different carriers get different pay and he must go to headquarters himself for the paper, and is actually charged rent to put the paper together. "They are losing $4 million a year and are trying to get the money from the carriers." While he gets screwed, Mr. A tells me customers like Sam Bennett get a special discounted rate for her newspaper.
Last week, I told you about the problems Kari Holmes has had getting Allentown police to do anything concerning a racially-motivated assault. Mr. A's experience is even worse. He's been snubbed by a congressional candidate, Allentown police and a newspaper. Despite having a picture of his assailant and seeing him in the Hotel Traylor lobby, he's been ignored. The paper for whom he works offers no condolences and can't even get its report right. And the congressional candidate who was an eyewitness to the robbery has given varying accounts.